Spartan is about a kidnapping of Laura Newton (played by Kristen Bell), the Harvard coed daughter of the president of the United States, and her eventual rescue by Commander Robert Scott (played by Val Kilmer), who works for a mysterious special ops agency that assists the CIA, the FBI, the Secret Service, and the White House, during a presidential election campaign. A Secret Service agent, assigned to protect the daughter, has obviously screwed up, so film audiences in the early part of the movie are invited to surmise that he was paid off to abandon his post by the president, who in turn was able to engage in an extramarital affair without his daughter’s knowledge. The agent who fouled up is vigorously interrogated, including a sharp punch to the face by Scott, and soon the agent shoots himself. The press buys the phony story from the White House that Laura drowned when the sailboat of her favorite professor capsized. Two White House operatives, Burch (played by Ed O’Neill) and Stoddard (played by William H. Macy), commission Scott to retrieve Laura. From the lack of a ransom demand, Scott looks for another explanation and discovers that Laura has been abducted to Dubai by a white slavery syndicate, which will dye her hair blonde in preparation for her sale to the highest bidder. Most of the film is devoted to the rescue, which requires careful planning, though unforeseen contingencies require quick reactions; one unexpected development is Laura’s admission to Scott that her father is a jerk. Later, as Laura and Scott try to get on an airplane, Stoddard asks Laura to run to him, declaring in a megaphone that Scott is a renegade Secret Service agent and that the caper is part of World War III, evidently because he has arranged the kidnapping to prevent the daughter from revealing the seamy side of her father’s private life while making the abduction into a terrorist plot. Evidently, Stoddard expected Scott to fail in his rescue mission. However, when Laura returns to the United States, a very unpresidential President Newton makes political capital of her rescue, so the entire scenario may perhaps have been arranged all along to give him a boost in the polls. The action proceeds so quickly, with few clues about the meaning of what is said or done, that film audiences are doubtless expected to debate what was the real scenario behind all the doublecrosses and doubletalk as they leave the cinema with their friends. Or perhaps the director, David Mamet, intends the confusion as an invitation to see the film again to clear up the mystery, a most unlikely possibility in light of the obvious exploitation of the public’s disgust over political intrigue. As for the title, Laura quotes a classic verse in which King Leonidas says that when military assistance is needed, only one Spartan will suffice. Indeed, one view of Spartan is enough. MH

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